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Young riders rule Cheakamus Challenge

Plaxton, Kindree and Federau battle for first

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The 21 st Annual Cheakamus Challenge took place on Saturday, Sept. 24 with a new course and some of the best racing conditions in the events long history.

There was a bit of trouble at the start, with a crash taking down several riders on the first gravel road section, but otherwise the day went smoothly for most of the field.

At the front, it was Tofino’s Max Plaxton who set the pace this year. He was the first rider out of the Cheakamus Canyon, capturing the $100 Lumpy Leidal Prime presented by the Leidal family.

For Plaxton, 20, this was his fourth Cheakamus Challenge and the first time he won the event. He was second last year to Andreas Hestler, who admitted he had nothing left in the tank after racing hard in the West Side Wheel Up and Samurai of Singletrack the previous two weekends.

Plaxton finished the course in three hours, 10 minutes and 14 seconds, averaging 22.24 kilometres an hour on the almost 71 km course. He finished just three seconds up on 18-year-old Squamish rider Neal Kindree, who has emerged as one of Canada’s top up and coming cross-country athletes.

Plaxton said it was a battle to keep the lead. "I definitely felt (Neal) a lot. At one point I was told I had about 30 seconds, so I knew he was closing the lead and he bridged up a lot on the singletrack. I was riding a little more conservatively, and that made it really close. He’s one to look out for, for sure."

Third place went to Ricky Federau of Abbotsford with a time of 3:13:57. Kris Neddon of Victoria was fourth, Michael Hunter of North Vancouver fifth, while Andreas Hestler was sixth by a fraction of a second.

Hestler had been going for wins in the Wheel Up, Samurai and Cheakamus Challenge, but knew early on that he didn’t have it Saturday.

"I’m tired," he said. "I had a flat up near the start, but that didn’t throw me off too much. In a way it was over before it started. I kept pushing to get to the end, but it was all over long before that.

"When you race with these young guys you need to bring your ‘A’ game, and I brought my ‘C’ game – C-plus maybe."

In the women’s pro category it was Trish Sinclair’s race from start to finish. She completed the course in 4:00:29, almost seven minutes ahead of Squamish’s Meghan Kindree.

Whistler’s Joanna Harrington was the third women across the line, in 4:08:16, just 1:02 back of Kindree.

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